CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s strongman fired at least six ambassadors, including the envoys to the U.S., the European Union and France, after they condemned the military’s takeover of the country, a military official said Thursday.
The diplomats pledged their support for the now-deposed government of Prime Minister Abddalla Hamdok.
Also fired by Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan late Wednesday were the Sudanese ambassadors to Qatar, China and the U.N. mission in Geneva, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
The state-run Sudan TV also reported the dismissals.
The ambassadors were fired two days after Burhan dissolved the transitional government and detained the prime minister, many government officials and political leaders in a coup condemned by the U.S. and the West. The military allowed Hamdok to return home Tuesday after international pressure for his release.
Burhan said the military forces were compelled to take over because of quarrels between political parties that he claimed could lead to civil war. However, the coup also comes just weeks before Burhan would have had to hand over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the ultimate decision-maker in Sudan, to a civilian, in a step that would reduce the military’s hold on the country. The council has military and civilian members. Hamdok’s government ran Sudan’s daily affairs.
The coup threatens to halt Sudan’s fitful transition to democracy, which began after the 2019 ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in a popular uprising.
The takeover came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and pace of that process.
Ali bin Yahia, Sudan’s envoy in Geneva, was defiant after his dismissal.
“I will spare no efforts to reverse the situation, explain facts and resist the blackout imposed by coup officials on what is happened my beloved country,” he said in video comments posted online.
Nureldin Satti, the Sudanese envoy to the U.S., said Tuesday he was working with Sudanese diplomats in Brussels, Paris, Geneva and New York to “resist the military coup in support of the heroic struggle of the Sudanese people” to achieve the aims of the uprising against al-Bashir.
Activists have been circulating videos on social media showing mostly empty streets in the capital, with most stores except for groceries and bakeries closed on Thursday. Earlier, protesters called for a national strike to pressure the military to relinquish power.
Earlier this week, a group of over 30 Sudanese diplomats in and outside Sudan condemned the military’s takeover in a joint statement, saying that the ambassadors in Belgium, Switzerland and France had pledged their continued allegiance to the Hamdok government.
The Ministry of Culture and Information, still loyal to Hamdok, said in a Facebook post that the ambassador to South Africa is also part of this group.
In another development, Burhan fired Adlan Ibrahim, head of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, according to the official. Adlan’s dismissal came after the resumption of flights in and out of Khartoum’s international airport resumed Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if Ibrahim’s dismissal was linked to the reopening of the airport or whether the decision was made before then. The airport remained open Thursday morning.
The country’s Civil Aviation Authority initially said flights would be suspended until Saturday, the day of a planned mass protest against the coup, but then reopened the airport Wednesday. The military has also reopened some bridges that were closed earlier by protesters.
Protesters, meanwhile, took to the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman late Wednesday in continued demonstrations against the coup amid heavy security across the capital. By Thursday morning, security forces had cleared several makeshift stone barricades that protesters had set up in a few residential neighborhoods.
No casualties were reported, but a young man died in a Khartoum hospital late Wednesday of wounds sustained in Monday’s protests and another one, who had been into a coma for nearly two days after being shot in the head, died early Thursday, according to activist Nazim Siraj.
This raised to eight the number of protesters killed since Monday.
Hundreds of people marched on Thursday in a funeral procession in Khartoum for one of the protesters.
Al least 170 people have been wounded since the military’s takeover, according to a statement issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. Most of the cases, including moderate and severe ones, are lying in Khartoum hospitals, which are battling a shortage in surgical and other medical supplies as the movement in the capital remains restricted by roadblocks, OCHA said.
Also on Thursday, the Friends of Sudan Group, which consists of several EU states as well as the U.S. and the U.N., issued a statement condemning the coup and called for the immediate release of Sudanese officials who were unlawfully detained.
“The actions of the security forces deeply jeopardize Sudan’s hard-won political, economic and legal gains made over the past two years and put Sudan’s security, stability and reintegration into the international community at risk,” read the statement issued by the alliance formed after Bashir’s ouster in 2019.
The statement urged the country’s armed forces to restore all transitional arrangements that were based on military-civilian partnership.